Monday, June 14, 2010

Adapting lessons

I'm grateful for the reminder of what it's like to be a student again, as we experienced today during the reporting simulation. What a good reminder that learning can be completely engaging AND fun. We weren't even writing, contrary to what many students think journalism is all about; instead, we analyzed, probed, observed, tried different tactics and approaches, worked as a team, problem-solved, delegated, and discussed. I do truly believe, as Diana Mitsu Klos said the first night, that journalism has the potential to teach students more real-world skills than any other class or club on campus. I'm excited to keep learning and doing, experiencing and reflecting...

... and adapting. I would guess that we are all continually asking ourselves, "How can this work in my classroom?" Our simulation today took almost two hours (including the debrief), which is probably more than the average high school class period allows. Even with my 100-minute block classes, I'd hate to have to stop this activity and continue the next day, losing momentum. How can we adapt it?

I remember doing a similar exercise when I was a high school journalist at summer writing bootcamp, but the situation was an earthquake, and we had to interview multiple sources to find the number of injuries. This simpler scenario might save time in eliminating today's complicated background information (a tax evasion case where the accused is trying to change her plea to perhaps avoid testifying against the rising mafia boss Steve Elliott) I'll see if I can find that lesson plan, but do others have ideas on adapting this for a shorter time period or for your particular level of students?

Kim Vinh
Sequoia High School
Redwood City, Calif.


  1. Perhaps you could have fewer people to interview and give more information to begin with. That could shorten it up considerable

    Jodie Schommer
    Lakeside Lutheran High School
    Lake Mills, WI

  2. I really enjoyed this exercise as well. It definitely was a reminder of what it was like to be a student.

    Leona O'Neal
    George COunty High School
    Lucedale, Miss

  3. It was a fabulous exercise, even for those of us who missed our afternoon siesta. Anything that gets students moving around and actively engaged in their learning is worthy of attention. I too agree with Diana Mitsu Klos's comments on journalism class, and that is one of the reasons I love creating a newspaper with my students. It is hands on, and it is real. The skills learned are transferable to so many other fields of study.

    I think mini versions of this exercise (shorter, less complex stories) would be an excellent exercise to incorporate into the curriculum.

    Jamalee Moret
    Alhambra High School
    Phoenix, AZ

  4. I too think less interviewees would work. I tried a version of this last year. The kids had fun, but the interviewees didn't really own it enough. Perhaps I didn't give them enough time or guidance as to what to do. I could see spending at least one class prepping for this activity, so that the next class is all about the hunt.

  5. Condensing the storyline may also help. Every year we do a simulated press conference to cover breaking news on a fictitious break-in by 3 students. The Assistant Principal, Campus Police Officer and several seasoned editors all participate and newbie reporters must think quickly on their feet and take notes. Since our main suspect is eventually named Felonious Monk, we don't let on until the end that it's a fake press conference and end with - "You've been monked!" This lesson takes approximately 75-80 minutes and is always a hit with the students, who must write their story and return the next day with it. Follow up discussions range from checking for quote accuracy to discussing what clues in hindsight might have indicated the story was fictitious.

  6. This was one I developed for professional reporters, so it was pretty challenging. Hats off to everyone for steering clear of Mr. Waffling Blowhard's misinformation. I agree that the key is getting the players to own their parts. I wrote a backstory for each, and I think that helped the actors get into it.

    Steve Elliott
    Arizona State University

  7. I also enjoyed this exercise and loved the idea of incorporating a drama club to help with the acting portion. Our thespian group would thrive off of this kind of activity and make it a great experience for my J1 kids, while at the same time introducing some more students into the world of journalism (always a plus). I can't wait to try this activity in my classroom and to come up with other scenarios as I teach my students interviewing and reporting techniques.

    Laura Schwinn
    Emporia High School
    Emporia, Kan.